The Great Wide Open

Photograph © 1998 Peggy Kornegger
Photograph © 1998 Peggy Kornegger
“I’m not running
I’m not hiding
I’m not reaching
I’m just resting in the arms of the great wide open
Gonna pull my soul in
And I’m almost home.” —Mary Chapin Carpenter

When our dear cat Lily reached the end of her very long life (22 years), her health declined during the last few months. In consultation with animal communicator Teresa Wagner, and thus with Lily, my partner and I made the decision to ask compassionate local vet Dr. Jake to come to our home and help Lily make her transition in order to relieve her of any further suffering. He was to arrive around 5 p.m., so we spent the last day of Lily’s life sitting with her in presence, candles lit, soft music playing. The three of us formed a small circle, Lily in her fleece bed and we sitting in chairs beside her. She would reach her paw out to us periodically, and we would kneel and stroke her head, looking into her beautiful eyes and listening to her purr. At that point, Lily was pure soulful peace and love. Teresa herself had commented that she wished everyone in the world could know Lily and experience that extraordinary peace.

As we sat with her, that peace permeated our souls. There was really no spoken language to describe what we were feeling, except in the words of Mary Chapin Carpenter’s song: “resting in the arms of the great wide open.” The veil between life and death had slipped aside, and Lily was indeed “almost home.” She gave us that final gift of resting in divine presence with her as part of the love the three of us had shared here on Earth. The sky faded toward dusk, and the quality of the light in the room became almost golden. With Dr. Jake’s assistance, Lily passed peacefully in our arms.

Now, four years later, I have come to understand the full power of what Lily shared with us then. A few weeks ago, as I sat in meditation with Panache Desai’s recording of “Being Peace,” suddenly I was once again immersed in that afternoon of peace with her within the Great Wide Open. As the tears streamed down my face, I realized that Lily had given me my first positive experience of infinity, two years before I met Panache. With his help, I have been facing a lifetime fear of infinity/eternity, and gradually, as I stop resisting it, the fear is loosening its grip, and I am able to experience something entirely different—the light and peaceful expansiveness that is the heart of infinity. Exactly what I had felt with Lily as she transitioned, radiating peace from her entire being.

The animal companions in our lives are often so much wiser than we are, if only we would open our awareness to their divine intelligence. In their quiet loving way, they teach us so much about what is really important in life: love, peace, harmony, heart connection, play. We laughingly referred to Lily as the “cat Dalai Lama” because she always absolutely insisted on a peaceful home atmosphere—no arguments, no friction or raised voices. It turns out we weren’t far from the truth. Lily truly was a small bodhisattva; she came into our lives (on Mother’s Day, no less) to share what she was at her very core—unconditional love and peace. And to show us that we too are that. Thank you, sweet Lily. We love you, always.

[Lily: March 14, 1988–January 7, 2010]

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6 thoughts on “The Great Wide Open

  1. Peggy, I am in tears reading the memory of your time with Lily. She embodied and emanated such deep and gentle peace, and so much love. It warms my heart to read how these few years later, she continues to give to you. Blessings to her for her soul’s journey, and blessings of love and peace to you and Anne. It is a great privilege to know all three of you.

  2. Thank you, Teresa. You were so much a part of those last months, and especially the last week. Your loving support and interactive presence with all three of us helped us find peace and beauty in that last painful goodbye. You are such a dear, deeply compassionate human being and friend. Anne and I are both so grateful to know you.

  3. Reading this, I had the experience of feeling that I was there with Lily, Peggy & Anne. I felt that deep peace, and all the joy and acceptance that comes with sharing such a sacred experience. I hope that when it’s time for me to experience the transitions of my 2 beloved cats and any other dear beings, that I will be once again in that beautiful peaceful state that Peggy offered in this blog.
    I don’t really understand about the infinity awareness, but I have my own terrors, especially the dread of losing beloveds…the story of Lily’s transition has really helped me feel a deeper acceptance of the impermanence that all of us sentient being have to learn to accept. Thank you, thank you….

  4. So beautiful..thank you. Your kitty reminded me of my kitty Drake that looked exactly like your Lily. I, too, sat with him in his dying hours and it was beautiful. That was many years before I met Panache and now your story has brought the two together in my heart. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for sharing this.

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